It is said that a pet is as much of a family member as anyone else. Many refugees from Eastern Ukraine who, after leaving behind the home they had built over many years of hard work, were unwilling to part with their four-legged family members.
“I had friends who joined the separatists in 2014 when the first war broke out. I didn’t understand that even then. I have relatives in Russia, we went there and I saw that they lived no better than us. We had a job, a life, and they came at us with guns, but why take that away from us? I don’t understand,” says the young man clutching the leash of his one-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever.
Ivan and his family came from Kramatorsk, according to him, they left the city in Donetsk region just one day before a rocket killed around 60 people at the railway station. As if considering every word, Ivan slowly continues to think aloud without making eye contact. “Now imagine what would have happened if we had waited just one day to leave. Maybe we would be lying on the ground in our own blood with the other victims. That is if we don’t leave… – how do you say it in Ukrainian? yes – quickly.”
The man did not have to be asked questions, the words poured out of him. For a moment, I remembered what one of the volunteers at the hostel had said earlier: most people, although they don’t show, just want to tell what happened to them. Even if not consciously, they want someone to listen, so that they can express the thoughts swirling around in their heads. Ivan too, probably not consciously, but took the opportunity to share his thoughts. He explained that being a Russian-speaking Ukrainian, he cannot yet express himself as freely in Ukrainian as in Russian, but he does not feel it is an impossible task at all. And Lviv is a nice city for him, so “we’re not going to make the same mistake twice, this time we’re staying,” he adds.
“What do you mean by that?” I interrupt him. “We are refugees for the second time,” came the answer from Ivan’s wife, Yulia, whose tone of voice made it clear that she was not in the mood to go into details.
One could read from Yulia’s eyes that she was tired of bringing up the past. What’s done is done, she doesn’t want to dwell on the past, especially regarding the fact that he became an internally displaced person for the second time in eight years. You could tell she was tired of it all.
The topic was closed by Ivan and Yulia’s teenage daughter.
“War is bad” she concludes with fading voice.